This Is the Main Reason I Don't Use My Film Camera

This Is the Main Reason I Don't Use My Film Camera

I love film photography; there's a special quality that analogue photos have that digital could possibly never match. However, I never shoot with my film camera anymore. Why not?
The first camera I ever shot on was film, and I continued to shoot analog until 2006, when I switched to digital. It wasn't long after the move until I exclusively shot digital photos and continue to do so today. However, I still have some film cameras (most recently a Nikon F100) and occasionally pop a little Fuji Velvia in there when going to a special location.

However, despite wanting to shoot with it more, I find it gathering dust on the shelf in my living room. But why is that? Have I fallen out of love with my film camera? Or is it because the quality of the shots is inferior to my digital camera? Well, it's a little more convoluted than that — some obvious reasons and others more obscure. It's likely the same sort of issues that many readers of this article will also have, comprised of convenience and size of living spaces. 

Can't Review Images

It's obvious, I know. But it's important to remember that when shooting film, you literally can't review any images you've taken. In a time where we're all so used to immediately checking the exposure, composition, depth of field, and so much more, we've become much more heavily reliant on this brevity. I think, in part, it's due to the self-edit.

Rear of film camera Nikon F100

There's no rear screen on a film camera. The fastest possible way to find out what a photo looks like is to have the film developed, which you can only do once you've used the entire roll of film (if shooting a roll of 35mm film, that's 36 exposures later).

Even those with no technical knowledge can now apply a filter, adjust brightness, or increase the sharpening of images before sharing them online. There's very little latency between taking the photo and making adjustments, so a larger gap between "click" and the finished photo as with shooting film can be jarring.

Double Up on Gear

Almost all my photography work nowadays is delivered digitally. So, if I go somewhere to take some great photos with my film camera, I'll want to capture that digitally as well. That's because I don't have a darkroom in my house, nor do I have the time to devote to preparing and developing the negatives or transparencies at home. 

Film and digital camera together

Why wait several days or weeks to get your photos back when you can take your digital camera along as well? The downside is that you're going to be carrying twice as much kit as before, all for the sake of shooting film.

This means waiting for a lab to process the stock before I have my finished result. For this reason, I tend to pack my digital camera too so that I can share my imagery faster. But inevitably, that means doubling up on gear, making my camera bag much heavier.

You're Stuck in One Mode

Fuji velvia 50 film in hand

When shooting film, you have to match the film type to the color temperature and light levels you're expecting to find when you get to your chosen location, as opposed to digital, where you can switch white balance and ISO at will as the conditions and light levels change.

Want to shoot outside on a nice, sunny day? Great, throw the daylight-balanced, ISO 200 film in the camera and head out. But if you plan to stay out all day and shoot into the night, you might want to think again, especially if you plan on going inside at any point. Unfortunately, you can't adjust ISO or white balance at will as you can with digital cameras. So, you're always limited in the scope of what you can and can't capture, and this limit is what puts me off shooting with my film camera. I love the flexibility digital gives me, and if my plans change throughout the day or night, then my camera changes with me. 

Waiting for Prints

Prints in hand on table

After waiting for your prints, there's a realization that you don't have control of how the negatives or transparencies are processed, which is the opposite of the control available when shooting digital.

As I've mentioned already, I don't have the time or space to develop my own film at home. I'm in a similar position to many people around the world, where rent is getting higher and living spaces are getting smaller. Whenever I do shoot film, it gets sent off to the lab for processing before receiving the results. If I'm working on a job, this long wait can really hinder me, especially if the client wants the images the same day. I understand there are some places that do rush jobs and expedited processing, but it's more overhead that cuts into my profit margin.

Using Photo Labs

My local labs are great at developing film, but having them do this for me does take a large chunk of artistic input from my photography workflow. If I'm in digital, I import to Lightroom, make my choices, apply edits, and maybe even finish off in Photoshop for some detailed work before having it ready to deliver. I'm in control of every part of the process from setting up the composition to choosing which resolution to output to. Labs are great, but I lack control over my workflow, and as an artist, that just bums me out.

So, What Does This All Add up To?

Basically, the reasons above mean that I'm less inclined to use my film camera, not that I don't want to. I just never get around to dusting it off and popping it in the camera bag. The last few times I've taken it out, I haven't bothered shooting with it, and it's become a bit of a lead balloon (both figuratively and literally when it's weighing me down in my bag). While I understand film's place in the world and still love it to pieces (and I'm aware there are many that shoot film regularly), I just can't justify it as anything more than a fun hobby for me. But perhaps you've found the opposite? Leave me a comment below; I'd love to hear your thoughts on why you do or don't shoot film.

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61 Comments

Ken Flanagan's picture

I have been shooting film for many years. I have high-end digital equipment as well, but I find myself shooting film the majority of time for my personal work. It is time consuming, finicky, and expensive. Below are my top reasons for still choosing to shoot film.
1.
2.
3. I like to overcomplicate things.
I hope this was informative.

Stuart Carver's picture

Funny, not far off the same reasons I have Technics 1210s on my DJ stand:)

Although I have ‘digitised’ them somewhat, the platter still spins and the needle still gets damaged.

Adam Demuth's picture

I did some terrible wiki-wiki in the mid 90's (just like everybody else) so I'm intrigued: How do you digitize your turntables???

Stuart Carver's picture

Google Digital Vinyl System or DVS, and the best thing is, the tech has been around since the 90s too ;)

Alexander Petrenko's picture

You’d be surprised to know what I think about it

Michael Krueger's picture

Besides a few disposable film cameras when I was a kid I never shot with film. Didn't care much for photography until 2014/2015 and I was using a phone at the time. Looked into shooting on film and decided it's not worth the cost. I also like to share photos quickly so I use my phone more than my DSLR when hiking.

Ivan Lantsov's picture

not reason you lazy

Alex Zenzaburro's picture

And doesnt know the basics, if not beeing able to review every photo is a reason to shoot digital.
If you are that unsecure with photography that you have to review every photo, you just need more practice

Ro Diaz's picture

Absolutely agree... maybe if you're a hobbyist without that much experience, or a landscape photographer with all the time in the world, but if you work with people, either with models, or at weddings/events, etc. chances are you won't do a good job if you're constantly double-checking. People will get annoyed if you constantly ask them to regroup for a photo because you didn't like the first ones you took, it's not wrong but it definitely makes you look amateur as hell.

Mike Ditz's picture

I like to shoot film, for pretty much the reasons that you mentioned. But I have bowl of film on my desk that need to go to the lab...

Javier Gutierrez's picture

My thoughts as well. The freedom that comes from the simplicity is great.

Joel Manes's picture

Well, it's not for you and the only person who should really care about that is.... you.

Scott Kiekbusch's picture

Shooting film in a digital age is all about intentionality. No immediate results or instant gratification. If you're shooting 35mm, you may want to buy 24 frame rolls instead of 36. It can be tough to get through 36 shots sometimes. I also enjoy going out and shooting 12 frames on my 6x6 medium format camera. It usually takes me less than an hour to get out and finish a roll. I can also develop black & white film easily at home without a darkroom so no need to send them to a lab and wait.

Adam Demuth's picture

It's funny how 20 years ago film seemed to be gone before it was even spooled up, and now I sort of lament that extra shot at the end of a roll.

Adam Demuth's picture

It's funny how 20 years ago film seemed to be gone before it was even spooled up, and now I sort of lament that extra shot at the end of a roll.

Brandon Hopkins's picture

All of your reasons just tells me that film isn’t for you, you’ve moved on and that’s fine.

Aaron Lyfe's picture

I could have bought some more digital stuff this year. But I decided to give 645 a whirl instead to dive deeper back into film. I'm pretty sure I will shoot mostly 645 on ortho all winter long

Julian Ray's picture

....The reason I don't use a fork to eat soup...
Is it just me or are FS articles getting sillier and, never mind.
I cannot wait for the "10 ways you are using your lens cap wrong" article.

Tim Gallo's picture

this. fstopers became a joke. it still pops up in my flipboard and everytime i roll my eyes when i see an "original" article from them. im out. they r a waste of time.

Chris Jablonski's picture

Don't wait, Julian - write it!

Now I can't wait.

Chris Jablonski's picture

And hurry, please. You've got me worried.

Julian Ray's picture

OMG Chris! You just made me snork up my morning coffee. Thanks!
Now I have to go clean up this mess.

Alex Zenzaburro's picture

To me its just this Jason Parnell guy, wasnt that also the guy with "five things to bring on a photowalk" kinda story where the conclusion was battery, memory card and a tripod?

Julian Ray's picture

"...the conclusion was battery, memory card and a tripod?"
That's four... Yep he probably forgot the fifth thing, a CAMERA!

Lee Stirling's picture

Sounds like you're just making up reasons to keep your F100 since it and film no longer fit your style, effort-level, patience, and budget. Lemme know if you wanna sell that F100...

Timothy Roper's picture

Yep, sounds like film isn't for you. You have to be all in for the entire process, not just the liking the way the images look part. And most importantly, you have to be able to visualize an image in your head, instead of looking at it on an LCD to see how a subject/scene looks as a photo. And all of that certainly isn't for everyone. That's why there's digital. So now you can forget all about film--no need to think or write about it anymore.

Aaron Gold's picture

You bought a giant brick of a camera that does all the work for you -- effectively a digital camera without the digital. No wonder you got bored of film.

Alex Zenzaburro's picture

I bet he spent 3 month on the internet to find the most effortless film camera there is until he found out that the F100 is a D700 with film :)

Billy Paul's picture

I stopped shooting film for the same reasons. Just not sure why it took you 20 years more than me to figure it out.

Rob Gatson's picture

I have an old rolliflex 6x6 I shoot with sometimes, just for fun...every so often I will provide a client a few shots from it as part of the complete package and you would be surprised how often they will say (without knowing it’s not from my R5) that there’s something special about the pictures...

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